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Author Topic: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?  (Read 14181 times)

xerces_blue

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Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« on: July 10, 2011, 09:23:19 am »
On the archived board, I found there was a discussion about Pagans and headcovering and modesty a while ago, and I thought I might try to start it up again.

A while ago, I found some blogs of Pagans who wear headcoverings and/or dress "plain" or modestly and/or are into simple living. This is something I am also interested in, and I thought I was looney for the longest time until I found I wasn't the only one. These are things that one associates with Judeo-Christian religions, certainly not Pagan religions, so I felt a bit confused as to why I was interested in dressing "plain" and all that. But finding other Pagans with the same interest has helped me in exploring the reasons behind this feeling, and I thought by making this thread, I might be able to help other Pagans interested in exploring the idea of plainness or simple living as well.

So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"? Does it have a place in Pagan life, or not? Are you interested in it yourself? If you are interested, or if you're one of the rare few that actually do it, in what ways are you modest, "plain," or living simply? Are you completely against it? If you're for it or against it, why?

You don't have to answer all or any of that, of course, I'm just giving some ideas to get a conversation going. From the looks of the old thread, I'm expecting lots of people to disagree with the idea, but I still think it's worth a re-visit for my own curiousity if nothing else. :D

I'll share my own opinions later, but first I'd like to see what others have to say. It's not much of a discussion if I'm just talking about myself. :p

Nyktelios

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2011, 10:24:08 am »
Quote from: xerces_blue;3550
So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"? Does it have a place in Pagan life, or not? Are you interested in it yourself? If you are interested, or if you're one of the rare few that actually do it, in what ways are you modest, "plain," or living simply? Are you completely against it? If you're for it or against it, why?


I dress pretty plainly myself, not for religious reasons, just out of personal preference. I just like simplicity and dislike the superficiality and pretentiousness that comes from putting too much emphasis on how one dresses.

When it comes to head covering and women wearing veils like the hijab or the burqa for religious reasons, I have two opinions. I think they should be able to wear what they like and express their religion freely, and no one should be able to tell them not to. On the other hand, I do think it's oppressive and unfair that women from those cultures need to bundle up and cover themselves while men can wear whatever they want. Still, patriarchal oppression was common to many pagan cultures of the past, so modesty to that extreme isn't a foreign concept to paganism.

JuniperMorgan

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2011, 01:13:22 pm »
Quote from: xerces_blue;3550

So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"? Does it have a place in Pagan life, or not? Are you interested in it yourself? If you are interested, or if you're one of the rare few that actually do it, in what ways are you modest, "plain," or living simply? Are you completely against it? If you're for it or against it, why?

 
I think modesty has it's place - provided that it's done voluntarily and not in an oppressive manner.  Modesty can be used as a sign of respect.  Not saying that dressing in a revealing manner or going skyclad is disrespectful - but there are times when dressing in a more modest manner may be more respectful.  Like if you're in a group circle or event with minors and not everyone is comfortable with being skyclad, then it would be respectful to dress more modestly for their sake.

Also, while the arguement may be made that covering oneself in symbols of your faith is your right just as much as someone wearing a Star of David, Cross or Crucifix, alot of pagans tend to go overboard and wear more than just one simple charm.  In some ways this hurts their intention more than it helps - especially if it's not a special pagan gathering.  People in general are more likely to dismiss someone who is over the top (or "loud and proud") than they are someone who, while different, seems more like themselves.

I like the idea of living simply myself, because to me it means more than just how I dress.  A return to a closer relationship to land and nature - akin to the Amish and the Menanites.  Menanites are similar in their simple lifestyle to the Amish, but are allowed to use electricity and cars etc.  There's a basic truth and honesty to this type of lifestyle - at least to me.

Personally, in my current situation living that simply is not an option.  But I am working towards changing that in the future.
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Valentine

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2011, 01:21:36 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;3557
On the other hand, I do think it's oppressive and unfair that women from those cultures need to bundle up and cover themselves while men can wear whatever they want. Still, patriarchal oppression was common to many pagan cultures of the past, so modesty to that extreme isn't a foreign concept to paganism.


Men can't--they have dress and grooming rules too.  It's true that in places where women wear a simple hijab with Western dress, men often wear similarly Western dress, but the cultures that expect women to wear an abaya or burqa also generally expect men to not trim their beards, to dress covered up, and so on.  It's not as extreme, I'll grant, but the men aren't wearing whatever they want.  In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, men were beaten for not adhering to strict grooming rules, and in post-revolutionary Iran, both men and women were shocked at the new sartorial requirements.  Women take the brunt of it, no argument, but it's complicated.  (Iran is kind of a fascinating example.  The kind of fashion that goes on in private spaces, and the public competition for Most Fashionable Headscarf among women of means, is sort of a thing.)
 
That is to say, we forget that lots of our cultures have modesty and dress rules for women and men, including in North America and Western Europe.  (Why, here, it was only forty, fifty years ago that it was unseemly for a man to go out without a hat, or a woman without a hat/scarf.  And think of the social censure and discomfort around women who don't remove body hair, or men with big straggly beards.  And why is it that going out in a bikini is okay, but underwear that covers more isn't?)  We see it more from the Abrahamics because, frankly, there are more of them around.  I think we'll see this conversation crop up more and more as there are more people in Pagan community.

I can't imagine going "plain dress" for Astarte or Aphrodite, but I can think of a lot of faiths and allegiances that would make it very sensible or appropriate.  I know I dressed very plainly, though ceremonially, while doing dead-people work on call, and that I'm looking forward (understatement of the year) to my plain black ministerial robes when I've earned them.
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xerces_blue

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2011, 02:28:02 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;3557



I've always been a pretty conservative dresser myself, which is possibly why I'm not opposed to plainly/conversatively-dressing Pagans, and why I would want to incorporate it into my daily practice. For me, it's just about the simplicity. Women being submissive or shameful or dirty has nothing to do with it.

And I also agree with you about women who veil. It's wonderful if they're choosing to do it on their own volition because it empowers them or puts them some place spiritually, but if they're forced to do it against their will, it's just oppressive. And it's true that there is historical precedent for modesty in Paganism, but since modern Pagans are almost all Pagans by choice and don't come from a culture where modest dress and headcovering is common, any Pagan who chose to do so would fall into the first group of those doing it by their own free will.

Quote from: JuniperMorgan;3614



Very interesting to see someone interested in the lifestyle like the Mennonites. I'd also like to live like that, but my current situation also prevents me from doing so.

I really agree with you about the religious symbols. I think some Pagans do go overboard with the bling, and it tends to attract the wrong kind of attention. There's nothing wrong with wearing a small symbol if you want to, but wearing huge ones and tons of them seems to be a bit "loud and proud," as you put it.
 
Quote from: Valentine;3615


 
I agree about modesty not just being something opposed on women. I think men have a responsibility to be modest as well, and it's not just about what you wear. I think behavior is a big part of modesty as well.

I also agree that going "Plain" wouldn't be for all Pagans, but I could see devotees of certain deities being called to do so, possibly those in a recon path, or even clergy (like I'm assuming you are/will be). That's the reason why I wanted to bring this up, to discuss the viability of "Plain Pagans," and who this might work for, and for what reasons. It's definately not for everybody, but I think it's a little-explored idea worth giving some thought to.

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2011, 02:32:48 pm »
Quote from: xerces_blue;3550

So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"? Does it have a place in Pagan life, or not? Are you interested in it yourself? If you are interested, or if you're one of the rare few that actually do it, in what ways are you modest, "plain," or living simply? Are you completely against it? If you're for it or against it, why?


Headcoverings are common among mystics of all kinds, because the hair is considered by many cultures to be a seat of power, so covering it - or, in more extreme paradigms, getting rid of it altogether - keeps that power in control. Just look at the Sikhs with their turbans, and the Buddhist monks and nuns with their shaved heads.
 
I don't have strong feelings about headcovers either way. I know a few fancy ways to tie a headscarf (courtesy of a Jewish friend who decided to cover after her marriage), but I can't see myself wearing one day in, day out. I like simple clothes, total black removes a lot of stylistic headaches, and I don't care for displays of skin either, especially in the British climate. I don't think putting my gooseflesh on display does me any favours, thank you very much!

For ritual work, I feel I need to have as much of my back as possible, as well as my midriff and feet, bare. It's an energy thing, and it may change in time. I can't see myself doing ritual swathed in robes - or skyclad either, for that matter.
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treekisser

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2011, 04:14:18 pm »
Quote from: xerces_blue;3550


So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"? Does it have a place in Pagan life, or not? Are you interested in it yourself? If you are interested, or if you're one of the rare few that actually do it, in what ways are you modest, "plain," or living simply? Are you completely against it? If you're for it or against it, why?


I think choosing to be plain, like fasting, can be a source of power.

Having said that, a question: you use modest and plain together. What about being modest and fashionable instead of modest and plain? I wonder if there's a tension between stylishness and modesty.

Thorn

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2011, 05:35:28 pm »
Quote from: treekisser;3661
I wonder if there's a tension between stylishness and modesty.

It depends on the reason for the modest dress.  Some faiths simple require  covering specific body parts, while others believe that adorning oneself in any way is vanity and is forbidden.  (For the latter, I'm thinking particularly of the Pentecostal church I attended as a teen.)

I've seen some absolutely gorgeous fashions designed with Islamic requirements in mind.  (I really wish I still had the link to the website where I saw these.  It made me want to go shopping for caftans.)

As for pagan dress - whatever floats your boat.  Or whatever your gods require.  The idea of head covering has some appeal to me personally, but somehow I don't think my patron would be an advocate of excessive modesty.
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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2011, 06:32:45 pm »
Quote from: treekisser;3661
I think choosing to be plain, like fasting, can be a source of power.

Having said that, a question: you use modest and plain together. What about being modest and fashionable instead of modest and plain? I wonder if there's a tension between stylishness and modesty.

 
I think it depends on how you define modesty.  If you only define modesty as covering up sexy bits, then no.  But I think that modesty in the biblical sense is referring to a lot more than that.  You could be completely covered, and still be immodest.  Modesty is about humility and making those around you feel at ease.  

Sperran

xerces_blue

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2011, 10:20:08 pm »
Quote from: treekisser;3661

Having said that, a question: you use modest and plain together. What about being modest and fashionable instead of modest and plain? I wonder if there's a tension between stylishness and modesty.


The main reason was that the thread on the old board included the idea of modesty in the topic. Another reason is that I think when people think about plain-dressing Christians and other religions with a dress code, we tend to associate plain dress with modesty.

However, I think modesty CAN be fashionable. I think modesty is a behavior, which may include how you dress, but it's other things as well. Like it's been mentioned, some Muslim women dress modestly in the sense that everything but the hands, feet, and face are covered, but they look very fashionable. However, even with everything covered like that, if what they're wearing is very tight and shows their body shape and they're wearing heavy makeup and jewelry, it might be considered to not be modest at all.

Quote from: Sperran;3697
I think it depends on how you define modesty.  If you only define modesty as covering up sexy bits, then no.  But I think that modesty in the biblical sense is referring to a lot more than that.  You could be completely covered, and still be immodest.  Modesty is about humility and making those around you feel at ease.  


So I was basically saying just now what Sperran said, only not as simply put. :)

But the part about the sexy bits reminds me of something I hoped would get brought up, so I'm going to bring it up now. Somebody already mentioned modesty and going skyclad, but I forgot to mention it at the time.

Right now, the most noticable practitioners of plain/"modest" dress are Judeo-Christian, and the reason stems greatly from shame about sexuality and the human form. Since most Pagans don't have these kinds of hang-ups, it would mean the motivation for a "Plain Pagan" would be quite different, or at least it is for me.

My interest is not in covering up something shameful or denying my sexuality. In fact (and this is a way of thinking I realized from reading why Muslims cover, actually), I see sexuality as something sacred, as I think many other Pagans do. But because it's sacred, and my body is sacred, it's something that I feel shouldn't be available to everyone.

I'm aware that not everyone shares that view with me, nor do I think everyone should. It's just part of my own personal reasoning as to why I would/am considering "plain"-ifying my wardrobe. There are other reasons, like simplifying my life in general, which would include clothing, but I just wanted to cover the part about the view of sexuality, because it's usually an important difference between Judeo-Christian folk and Pagans, and it's just a fun thing to talk about, I guess :D

outlaw393

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2011, 10:18:14 pm »
Quote from: xerces_blue;3550
On the archived board, I found there was a discussion about Pagans and headcovering and modesty a while ago, and I thought I might try to start it up again.

A while ago, I found some blogs of Pagans who wear headcoverings and/or dress "plain" or modestly and/or are into simple living. This is something I am also interested in, and I thought I was looney for the longest time until I found I wasn't the only one. These are things that one associates with Judeo-Christian religions, certainly not Pagan religions, so I felt a bit confused as to why I was interested in dressing "plain" and all that. But finding other Pagans with the same interest has helped me in exploring the reasons behind this feeling, and I thought by making this thread, I might be able to help other Pagans interested in exploring the idea of plainness or simple living as well.

So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"? Does it have a place in Pagan life, or not? Are you interested in it yourself? If you are interested, or if you're one of the rare few that actually do it, in what ways are you modest, "plain," or living simply? Are you completely against it? If you're for it or against it, why?

You don't have to answer all or any of that, of course, I'm just giving some ideas to get a conversation going. From the looks of the old thread, I'm expecting lots of people to disagree with the idea, but I still think it's worth a re-visit for my own curiousity if nothing else. :D

I'll share my own opinions later, but first I'd like to see what others have to say. It's not much of a discussion if I'm just talking about myself. :p


I don't worry about this. I dress comfortably, and I honestly don't care what anyone thinks. If they don't like it, they don't need to look. Or they can go somewhere else.

I'm not sure what pagan would want to wear a head covering. Paganism to me is all about freedom, and wearing anything over your head because you feel your religion tells you to isn't freedom.
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treekisser

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2011, 10:33:42 pm »
Quote from: outlaw393;4092
Paganism to me is all about freedom, and wearing anything over your head because you feel your religion tells you to isn't freedom.

 
:confused:

Then doing anything because you feel your religion tells you to isn't freedom?

Even if all Paganism is about freedom, surely freedom isn't compromised by the choice to obey, but only if the choice itself is compromised?

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2011, 10:44:05 pm »
Quote from: outlaw393;4092

I'm not sure what pagan would want to wear a head covering. Paganism to me is all about freedom, and wearing anything over your head because you feel your religion tells you to isn't freedom.


Because head coverings aren't just about freedom?

(I mostly said the bit I was interested in in the previous discussion, and am busy enough that I haven't made repeating it here a priority, but there's one bit that's relevant, which is...)

I know some Pagans who use a headcovering (usually of a format that doesn't look overtly religious - a bandana or scarf, usually with a fair bit of hair showing rather than something that looks more like a typically Jewish or Muslim or Christian version)  

They do it for a very Pagan/magical reason: it helps them 'tune out' the press of minds and emotions around them if they're otherwise sensitive to those things, and focus on what really matters to them. Yes, this is a thing that solid training in centering, grounding, and shielding can do a lot to help with - but some of these people find a headcovering either helps with that, or leaves more of their energy and attention free to do other things.
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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2011, 11:09:17 pm »
Quote from: xerces_blue;3550
So, getting to the discussion part, how do you feel about modesty, simple living, and "Pagan plain"?


If someone wants to dress modestly or feels that they should, more power to them, but I don't think anyone should force anyone to do it.

That said, I actually feel uncomfortable in "sexy" clothing, but I find nudity to be very freeing. I know that probably sounds contradictory, but it feels like I'm giving my skin room to breathe.

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Re: Modesty, Headcovering, Plain Dress, and Paganism?
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2011, 11:58:50 pm »
Quote from: outlaw393;4092
I'm not sure what pagan would want to wear a head covering. Paganism to me is all about freedom, and wearing anything over your head because you feel your religion tells you to isn't freedom.

 
What if Ereshkigal wants me to affect a snappy fedora?

Quote from: Lokabrenna
That said, I actually feel uncomfortable in "sexy" clothing, but I find nudity to be very freeing. I know that probably sounds contradictory, but it feels like I'm giving my skin room to breathe.


That's interesting, because I hear that a lot and it's really foreign to me--I have a deviant body that never feels safe to reveal to other people, so nudity is restrictive to me, rather than freeing, and I often feel much more free when well-covered up.  It's so interesting the way we all come at these things differently.
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